What do you think about when I say “Syria”?

Chocolate you say?

Wow, me too!

When I went to Dubai a couple of years ago, I decided to escape the heat of the city to visit the air-conditioned Dubai Mall. While walking among the far too fancy high-fashion stores, I stumbled upon a store that looked (and smelled) very different than the others: a Syrian chocolate store, Ghraoui. Fascinated as I am by all foods and edible things (although chocolate definitely tops the list), and never having tried Middle Eastern chocolate before, I waltzed right in and investigated what the store had to offer.

Dubai Mall
Photo credit: Ghraoui

And let me tell you: I was delighted. The amazing smells. The golden wrapped and delicious looking chocolates. Not only did they have some of the best truffles I’ve ever had (Swiss included), but they also had some amazing regional specialties, of which my favorites were the Damascene Delights (Turkish Delight with a touch of Damascus), Mann wa Salwa (made from pistachios and cardamom), and Lozeena (roasted almond paste filled with pistachio paste).

Via Dubai Internet Marketing

And best of all: the “oriental chocolates”. Glazed dates caked with chocolate Pistachio-filled apricots with chocolate layers. And possibly the greatest treat: Shahba, mouthwatering chocolate-coated Turkish delight filled with pistachios.

Photo credit: Ghraoui

As you could guess, I came back to the store at least 5 times during my two-week stay in Dubai.

For one of the visits, I convinced my mother, a middle-aged woman from Stockholm and a food enthusiast just like me, to come with me. She admittedly felt quite suspicious before trying the chocolate. A big fan of Switzerland, France and Austria, she felt that she was betraying her favorite chocolate stores in Europe by stepping into this Middle Eastern chocolatier. After all, she had always eaten their chocolate, and leaving her European chocolatiers behind simply felt wrong! How could any other chocolate be better? However, after she had tried her first piece, her entrepreneurial mind quickly decided that this chocolate needed to be imported and shared with people in Europe.

I think that’s a fantastic idea!

Especially today, when Europe is receiving a large amount of immigrants–many of whom are Syrians–and the continent is experiencing a revival of rightist political movements and increasingly tense interactions.

Everyone knows that the way to win someone’s heart over is through their stomach. And let’s be real, every stomach likes chocolate.